Video Games Issue 2021

The 50 best weapons in video game history

An extremely unscientific ranking.

Paige Mehrer

Video games would be nothing without their weapons.

From Link’s sword to Bomberman’s bombs to pretty much everything in the Ratchet and Clank series, it’s hard to imagine some of the greatest games being so great without the weapons that make them memorable. (Even Animal Crossing features a slingshot.)

Between futuristic firearms and magic swords, the endless creativity found in video game weaponry perfectly encapsulates the infinite potential of the medium itself. Whether you’re a fan of shooters, platformers, racing games, or sprawling fantasy RPGs, odds are there’s a tool of destruction that holds a special place in your heart.

And before you say it, yes, there’s a time and place for farming sims and other non-violent video games — but sometimes you just want to blow stuff up.

Page Mehrer

So as part of Inverse’s sitewide celebration of all things gaming, we’ve rounded up the 50 greatest video game weapons of all time, ranked below based on our non-scientific formula that factors in overall capabilities, imaginativeness of design, pop culture notoriety, and more.

Grab your rocket-powered gauntlet, whip, and a cardboard box. Let’s dive in.

The Video Games Issue 2021 is an Inverse celebration of retro favorites, forgotten gems, and the latest and greatest in interactive entertainment.

Alan Wake’s flashlight is incredibly powerful — in his universe anyway.Remedy Entertainment

50. Flashlight (Alan Wake): Alan Wake made this humdrum everyday object into a formidable weapon used to dispatch dark monsters. From Remedy Entertainment, the same developer that explored the glorious gimmick of “bullet time” in the Max Payne series, it’s no surprise Alan Wake used a simple flashlight in such a unique way.

49. Wumpa Fruit Bazooka (Crash Bandicoot series): Everyone’s favorite orange marsupial may mostly rely on his zany spin attack to defeat foes, but it’s not his only option. Crash also has a little bazooka! How often do you get to shoot fruit at your enemies in a video game?

48. Protec Grappler G3 (Just Cause series): The Just Cause series has all the energy and absurdity of ‘80s and ‘90s action movies like Face/Off, Commando, or First Blood but adds a grappling hook for added hijinks. The results are, unsurprisingly, pretty bonkers. The Grappler is a superb toy for open-world mischief, both as a weapon and as a means for travel.

47. Kung Lao’s Hat (Mortal Kombat series): Imagine a weapon with the rapid spin of a Beyblade (shout out to all the ‘90s kids out there!) and the ferocity of a bullet train that also makes a stylish fashion statement. That’s sort of what Kung Lao’s hat is like, and it’s resulted in some of the most memorable fatalities in the Mortal Kombat franchise.

46. Doomfist (Overwatch): One of the defining multiplayer titles of the 2010s, Overwatch introduced the world to a number of unique characters with their share of fantastic weapons and abilities. But there are none quite as memorable as the powerful gauntlet wielded by Akande “Doomfist” Ogundimu, which dares to ask the question, “What if players could punch people with the force of a million suns?”

Sega

45. Any Gun Shadow Uses (Shadow the Hedgehog): Admittedly, this selection is a bit of a meme. But if you just showed someone back in 1991 — the year the original Sonic the Hedgehog game was released — the cover of this game, it’d shock them beyond repair. How did jumping on cute little robots lead to sniper rifles? The fact that this game even happened is simply too hilarious to ignore.

44. Egg (Billy Hatcher and the Giant Egg): Speaking of Sega games, here’s a throwback to a 2003 title that’s about exactly what its title suggests. It’s a shame the game didn’t sell very well because trampling your enemies with a giant egg — as well as it being a goofy and effective means of transportation — is the kind of fun nonsense that feels straight out of a Saturday morning cartoon.

43. Spud Gun (Bully): Rockstar Games is best known for the Grand Theft Auto series’ wild sandbox of carnage, but let us not forget the goofy delight of Bully. While the arsenal looks fairly tame, one particular weapon, the Spud Gun, deserves a spot in the hall of fame. You get to shoot bullies with potatoes! Who says no to that?

42. Model 1887 (Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2): Call of Duty has already produced a treasure trove of memorable weaponry over the years as one of the most popular gaming franchises around. The Model 1887 shotgun deserves a mention simply for how, back in 2009, it became one of the most overpowered weapons in multiplayer history. It was a simple shotgun, yes, but it had the power of a rocket launcher and the range of an assault rifle.

Nintendo

41. Poltergust 3000 (Luigi’s Mansion series): Next to George Costanza, Luigi may very well be the greatest second banana in pop culture history. And his own series, Luigi’s Mansion, deserves a nod for introducing us to the video game equivalent of the proton pack from Ghostbusters. The Poltergust 3000 is a brilliant tool to capture ghosts that also serves up plenty of opportunities for goofs and gags. Seeing Luigi soaring across the room, holding on to the vacuum for dear life never gets old.

40. Groovitron (Ratchet & Clank): There’s a case to be made that 25 percent of this list could be composed entirely of weapons from the Ratchet & Clank series. In this case, we’ve got ourselves a grenade that makes enemies dance uncontrollably. Kevin Bacon would be proud of this one.

Wakka wielding a normal Blitzball in an underwater fight.Square Enix

39. Blitzball (Final Fantasy X): Say what you will about Final Fantasy X, but there’s no denying it had its fair share of bold decisions. How bold? Well, one of your party members, Wakka, unironically uses a blitzball — which is essentially the equivalent of a volleyball — as his weapon of choice. It’s just as ridiculous as it sounds.

38. Bombs (Bomberman series): Bombs are hardly a unique weapon for a video game. However, the Bomberman series is a different beast, as the blast radius for each is so unpredictable that it’ll give you mountains of anxiety trying to avoid being blown to smithereens by your own explosives.

37. Pickaxe (Fortnite): You might’ve heard of Fortnite, but while this small online game is known for having an entire library’s worth of weapons and consumables, the pickaxe is the great equalizer. Not only is it essential for destroying various objects to harvest building materials, but it also does melee damage to opponents.

Rare Ltd.

36. Frying Pan (Conker’s Bad Fur Day): We don’t have time to go over all the many, many ridiculous elements of Conker’s Bad Fur Day that, in retrospect, seem about as inconceivable as the Cleveland Cavaliers beating the Golden State Warriors in the 2016 NBA Finals. But a squirrel using a frying pan as his main means of defense sums it up pretty well.

35. Sly’s Cane (Sly Cooper series): One of the defining mascots of the PlayStation 2 era, Sly Cooper was like a Robin Hood for video game fans. His weapon of choice wasn’t a flashy gun or an awe-inspiring superpower, but a C-shaped cane used to whack his foes, pickpocket unsuspecting guards, and even as a means of traversal.

34. Plasma Cutter (Dead Space series): Dead Space is every bit as scary as its name and cover art suggest. Thankfully, the Plasma Cutter is here to help, slicing up enemies with unforgettably satisfying precision.

33. Beam Katana (No More Heroes series): Let us all give some respect to the wonderfully twisted mind of Suda (aka SUDA51). One of his crowning achievements, No More Heroes, features protagonist Travis Touchdown wielding not just a katana, but a beam katana. Slicing your enemies in gory fashion with what is ostensibly a lightsaber? Sign me up.

Shovel Knight wields a ... Shovel Blade!?Yacht Club Games

32. Shovel Blade (Shovel Knight): Just look at it! It’s a blade, yes, but also a shovel! You can even bounce around with it like a pogo stick! Who would’ve thought such an odd combination would perfectly capture the spirit of old-school platformers?

31. Giant Jawblade (Monster Hunter series): If you’re going big-game hunting, you’re gonna need a big weapon. The over-the-top thrills of the Monster Hunter series deserves an equally silly, meaty entry on our list.

30. F.L.U.D.D. (Super Mario Sunshine): The black sheep of the 3D Mario titles, Super Mario Sunshine is a classic example of Nintendo swapping out familiar gameplay mechanics for something completely unexpected. In this case, it’s a hydro pack that Mario can use to spray his gooey foes with water or fly through the air. You can’t accuse the game of playing it safe with the platforming formula, that’s for sure.

29. Concrete Donkey (Worms series): Worms is silly, and silly can be magic in video games. But the Concrete Donkey — a statue that repeatedly explodes as it makes contact with the ground, pummelling your enemy worms into oblivion — is a whole other level of silly.

Santa Monica Studio

28. Leviathan Axe (God of War): Considered a modern masterpiece, 2018’s God of War added depth and heart to the once-brutish Kratos. The gameplay got more meat on the bone too, and of all the additions the Leviathan Axe takes the cake. You could spend hours throwing it just for the satisfaction of calling it back to you like you’re Thor. It rules.

27. BFG 9000 (Doom series): Doom is known for carnage, but the BFG 9000 allows you to make it all look so easy. In some variations in the series, it can wipe out entire rooms of enemies in one shot. It makes every other weapon in the game look like a firecracker by comparison.

26. Air Pump (Dig Dug): Has anyone ever thought about how dark Dig Dug is? You go underground and fire shots into creatures seemingly minding their own business, then pump them full of so much air that they explode. Is that the kind of thing a good guy does? I have my suspicions.

25. Whip (Castlevania series): Classic platformers were known for their difficulty. In the Castlevania games, you traverse through giant castles with nothing but your wit and your whip to save the day from Dracula. It’s not flashy, but sometimes the simple items that require precision and skill to master are the most satisfying.

24. Mr. Toots (Red Faction: Armageddon): It’s a pony! But more than that, oh dear, it’s a pony shooting a rainbow beam of destruction from its buttocks! This is another one of those “How on Earth did this even happen?” kind of weapons, and it should be appreciated by all.

23. Mr. Zurkon (Ratchet & Clank series): Mr. Zurkon isn’t unique for his function as a weapon; He’s essentially a protective drone, which you can find in any number of games. The difference, however, is that Mr. Zurkon literally talks as he obliterates his enemies, delivering glorious one-liners that feel like they were inspired by Arnold Schwarzenegger movies.

Some standouts: “Mr. Zurkon does NOT come in peace!” and “Mr. Zurkon does not need bolts. His currency is pain!”

22. Dagger of Time (Prince of Persia series): Long live the Prince of Persia series and its most unique relic: the Dagger of Time. Just as the name suggests, the blade allows you to manipulate time, which results in plenty of wonderful platforming possibilities.

Nintendo

21. Home-Run Bat (Super Smash Bros. series): You know when you’re playing a game against your friends and get beat in such fantastic fashion that the floodgates of petty insults blow wide open? In Smash, getting knocked out by this slow, but deadly, one-shot weapon will often elicit that exact reaction.

20. Needler (Halo series): It was only a matter of time before Halo got its due on this list. Every weapon in the series has an eye-catching look in its own right, and the Needler’s spiky form, satisfying reload animation, and overall effectiveness make it one of the best.

19. Mini-Nuke (Fallout series): A franchise about what remains after a nuclear apocalypse is certainly a political premise. But while there’s a lot more under the surface of Fallout that’s worthy of analysis, it doesn’t take a genius to appreciate the Mini-Nuke, which is more than worthy of the name.

18. Bayonetta’s Hair (Bayonetta series): Bayonetta is a queen, plain and simple. She flies through the air with grace and shoots her enemies in style. She even uses her hair as a weapon. (As someone who is known for having crazy hair, I relate to this energy on a human level.) Hurry up with that sequel, Nintendo.

17. Hidden Blade (Assassin's Creed series): A killer has many ways of dispatching his enemies, but in the Assassin's Creed universe nothing is as satisfying as the sly quickness of the hidden blades. Even as it expands across various time periods, its fundamental weapon will always be at the heart of the series.

16. Pandora (Devil May Cry 4): The Devil May Cry franchise never lets you forget you’re playing a video game. Pandora could be the epitome of this notion — it’s a box with 666 weapons, from giant blades to rocket launchers. Yes, you heard that right, six-hundred and sixty-six.

15. Cappy (Super Mario Odyssey): Could there be some recency bias here? Sure, but it’s not so often that you see a gameplay mechanic executed as flawlessly as Cappy.

Mario’s sentient hat can be used to simply hit enemies, as a means for an astounding number of platforming moves, and most importantly: to take over and control nearly any enemy he runs into. Seriously, this hat can do anything.

14. Lancer Assault Rifle (Gears of War): Gears of War defined the Xbox 360 era. Its main weapon, the Lancer Assault Rifle, remains as recognizable as it was in the series’ heyday. It’s a rifle with a chainsaw mounted to it. What more could you want?

13. Cardboard Box (Metal Gear Solid series): One might say this hardly classifies as a weapon, but I don’t care. The way Solid Snake uses a simple cardboard box as a means of escape and stealth is too timeless (and hilarious) to overlook.

Capcom

12. The Mega Buster (Mega Man series): Mega Man has waned in popularity over the years, but his little blaster cannon will always remain an important relic in gaming history. Whether you’re charging up the pea shooter for a much more powerful blast or collecting different upgrades from bosses to give the Blue Bomber different types of ammunition — it’s exhilarating gameplay at its finest.

11. Energy Sword (Halo series): This thing is terrifying. A Covenant alien charging towards you with this giant blue sword of death is the stuff of nightmares. Just like the aforementioned Needler, the Energy Sword is terrifyingly effective and has one of the most satisfying sound effects in gaming history.

10. Scorpion’s spear (Mortal Kombat series): Mortal Kombat is best known for its gruesome fatalities. But it’s rare that a video game manages to have a quote that becomes recognizable by even the most casual of observers. Scorpion shouting “Get over here!” as he launches a spear into his opponents may not exactly be poetry, but it’s indisputably iconic.

9. Ray Gun (Call of Duty series): The Ray Run is an experience. It’s an absolute beast of a weapon to ward off zombies, but it’s not the firepower or aesthetics that make it special. With the Ray Gun, it’s all about opening the mystery box and finding pure joy inside. The hordes of zombies ahead are daunting, but for one fleeting moment, you have hope, thanks to Lady Luck.

Keyblades are mystical weapons of magic and might.Square Enix

8. Keyblade (Kingdom Hearts series): Kingdom Hearts is a lot. It’s impossible to even talk about the series at this point without feeling like your brain is being turned into spaghetti. But the Keyblade has a sense of magic about it. It’s a weapon that instantly elicits childlike wonder and limitless possibilities, thanks to it being quite literally a key. It’s weird enough to have worked and cool enough to remain one of gaming’s most unique pieces of weaponry.

7. The Blue Shell (Mario Kart): The Blue shell is the New England Patriots of video games; you absolutely love to hate it. The blue shell can be seen as an ever-present threat to your lead, a small light of hope for the racer in trouble, or simply as a means of inciting chaos. Just like some of humanity’s finest works of art, it’s open for interpretation.

6. The RYNO (Ratchet & Clank series): Ratchet & Clank is a series that consistently celebrates one of the main reasons people play video games — to get new abilities and items to destroy stuff in spectacular fashion. The RYNO, which stands for “Rip You a New One” is the culmination of all the work you’ve done. It’s over-the-top, powerful, and satisfying in (almost) every game of the series

Sometimes games are about a fulfilling story, and sometimes they’re about seeing our furry little : friend carry an enormous weapon and blow stuff up.

5. Blades of Chaos (God of War series): Before 2018, it wasn’t all that odd to view Kratos as a one-note character. He yelled a whole bunch, killed a whole bunch of people, and then yelled some more.

But the Blades of Chaos, Kratos’ primary weapon, are a character in their own right. That character may be a violent whirlpool of death, but in this case, it’s more than enough.

4. Buster Sword (Final Fantasy VII): PlayStation’s E3 2015 shocked the world with the news that the classic JRPG would, indeed, be getting a remake.

I had never played Final Fantasy VII before, so for much of the teaser, I was completely oblivious to what it could be. Then, in that one moment where the Buster Sword appears, I knew exactly what was being shown. Even if you’ve never played the game, you’d know that sword anywhere, and a legacy like that is simply undeniable.

3. The Gravity Gun (Half-Life 2): It’s sad to see Half-Life, one of the most critically acclaimed game series of all time, become little more than a meme. Every E3, you’ll see the internet joke about the true sequel finally being revealed.

Whether or not we’ll ever get that sequel feels about as possible as George R.R. Martin actually finishing The Winds of Winter. But even to this day, few weapons are as memorable as the Gravity Gun. The weapon allows you to grab objects — and by that I mean any object — and move them around, even flinging them with force if you so choose. It may not seem incredible by today’s standards, but back then it was a weapon that essentially gave you the ability to do, well, whatever. And doing whatever you want is at the core of what gaming is all about.

Breath of the Wild concept art is stunning.Nintendo

2. The Master Sword (Legend of Zelda series): The Master Sword represents a beginning. Not the beginning of gaming, per se, but the beginning of an epic adventure. It’s an affirmation that you’re about to go on a quest filled with danger, discovery, and thrills. From humble village beginnings to a warrior of justice, the Master Sword is your first step into a much larger world.

Though the lore is slightly different between each Zelda game, the blade is the creation of the goddess: and in most iterations has been imbued with more magic power from lesser deities and magical beings. Its most noteworthy ability is the power to vanquish evil, but it can also combat various magical effects. Only a courageous hero worthy of the blade can claim it, imaging it essentially the video game equivalent of Excalibur.

Behold the coolest weapon in all of gaming.Valve

1. Aperture Science Handheld Portal Device (Portal series): Portal is a game about possibilities. Few would’ve guessed that this small puzzle game with a simple concept — it was originally part of a bundle called The Orange Box — of trying to escape a lab with an experimental portal device would become a massive hit.

The ability to launch two connected portals gave way to a myriad of exciting challenges. Whether it’s reaching the top of a platform, trying to avoid deadly laser turrets, or as a form of platforming as you use your momentum to hurtle yourself through the portals to reach the goal, it’s the most legendary puzzle-solver in gaming history. It is, in many ways, an accidental masterpiece, and there’s perhaps nothing that better represents gaming than that.

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